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Matthew Headed Ashore

National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall sometime on Friday, somewhere between West Palm Beach and Cape Canaveral, with its 140 mile an hour winds.

About two million people have been warned to flee inland to escape the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in over a decade. Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has a message for those living in evacuation zones.

“There are no excuses, you need to leave,” said the Governor. “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”

Thirty-five hundred Florida National Guard troops have been activated to help before, during, and after the state’s encounter with Matthew.

“Over half of the available troops have been activated; that how serious this is,” said the Governor. “I’ve directed the National Guard to focus on pre-positioning resources, assist with helping people evacuate safely, and sheltering operations.

Post-Matthew, Scott said Guard members will be involved in recovery efforts, including search-and-rescue missions.

Hotels across the Panhandle westward to Pensacola were full by mid-morning Thursday.  Some hotel clerks were working the phones trying to help callers find lodging. Gov. Scott is urging residents to help out as well.

“If you live on the west coast [of Florida], call your friends in the impacted area and offer them a place to say,” said Scott.

Escambia County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka says plans to open public shelters are in place if needed. They’re monitoring traffic and hotel counts. Travelers report large fleets of utility trucks, traveling where needed to restore power once Matthew moves through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

“This time, it looks like our crews are headed up to Georgia to aid our sister company Georgia Power in Valdosta and possibly Macon,” said Jeff Rogers at Gulf Power Company, who adds that their 79-member storm team is divided into a number of crews.

“You have engineers that go up with them, you have assistants that go up there, people to help with lodging and that type of thing,” Rogers said. “It’ll be good work replacing poles, re-stringing wires, replacing fuses and equipment.”

“The Red Cross is way out in front of these things; we’ve been monitoring Matthew about ten days already,” says Jerry Kindle, President of the American Red Cross chapter in northwest Florida. Ten volunteers and two Emergency Response Vehicles – ERVs – are heading to Jacksonville for sheltering and mass care.

Local Red Cross volunteers returned only recently from areas of Louisiana hit by massive flooding. Kindle says they always operating on the truism that no two disasters – even if both are hurricanes – are alike.

“Unlike the rain and flooding in Louisiana, a hurricane is something you can get ahead of,” Kindle said. “We don’t know what our after-landfall outlook’s going to be, but we can get places set up for people and advise them to come get in [a] shelter and be safe.”Some local emergency management officials have gone to locations in Matthew’s strike zone. Santa Rosa County’s Brad Baker and Tom Lloyd are in Flagler County. Walton County Emergency Director Jeff Goldberg is also heading to the area.